Twinings Prevails on Health-Based Allegations for Its Tea Products

A federal court in California has granted in part the motion for summary judgment filed by Twinings North America in a putative class action alleging that the company misbrands its tea products by stating that they are a “Natural Source of Antioxidants” and “a natural source of protective antioxidants.” Lanovaz v. Twinings N. Am., Inc., No. 12-2646 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Cal., San Jose Div., order entered January 6, 2014). Regarding the plaintiff’s claims that the company’s labels imply protection from disease, the court found the product representations “too general to relate to a ‘health-related condition’” and thus dismissed these claims.

As to causation, the issue was whether the plaintiff admitted in her deposition that she did not rely on the green tea and Earl Gray tea labels or the company’s Website when making her purchasing decisions. The court refused to read her deposition transcript as narrowly as the company urged and found that the label was part of the reason for her initiating and continuing product purchases.

The court refused to find as a matter of law that the company’s “natural source” statement is not a nutrient content claim. The court further rejected the company’s claim that the plaintiff cannot establish an injury sufficient for Article III standing. While the court acknowledged that the plaintiff “may have significant difficulty proving damages, that is not an issue for standing. Paying more than she otherwise would have because of unfair competition is enough to establish standing.”

Read more in Issue 509 of the Food & Beverage Litigation Update